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Land Grabbing in Europe? Socio-Cultural Externalities of Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in East Germany

Ramona Bunkus () and Insa Theesfeld ()
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Ramona Bunkus: Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Food Policy, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, 06099 Halle, Germany
Insa Theesfeld: Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Food Policy, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, 06099 Halle, Germany

Land, 2018, vol. 7, issue 3, 1-21

Abstract: Recently, we witnessed an immense increase in international land transactions in the Global South, a phenomenon slowly expanding in northern industrialized countries, too. Even though in Europe agriculture plays a decreasing economic role for rural livelihoods, the increases in land transactions by non-local, non-agricultural investors pervades rural life. Nevertheless, the underlying processes are not yet well understood. Large-scale land acquisitions describe such purchases and leases in a neutral way, while ‘land grabbing’ expresses negative consequences for rural people. We investigate whether and under which conditions the term land grabbing is justified for the phenomenon observed in Europe. We propose six socio-cultural criteria that scholars should consider to come to an initial classification: legal irregularities, non-residence of new owners, centralization in decision-making structures, treating land as an investment object, concentration of decision-power, and limited access to land markets. We supplement our findings with empirical material from East Germany, where such land acquisition processes occur. Our paper contributes to the ongoing discussion about agricultural structural change in Europe, which is intensified by increasing land prices and a new distribution of landownership but likewise strongly intertwined with rural development.

Keywords: land grabbing; East Germany; socio-cultural externalities; rural development (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q15 Q2 Q24 Q28 Q5 R14 R52 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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